The Red Hall

The Red Hall has survived 100 years as a railway booking office

The architect and builder are unknown yet their legacy remains with the Red Hall which dates back to the early 17th century. It has a chequered history as a home and institution, even as part of a Victorian railway complex, yet has survived 100 years of vibrations from steam locomotives and rolling stock to become our most famous secular building which has been Grade II listed since 1977.

The house is believed to have been built for a wealthy businessman, Gilbert Fisher, and is typical of the new style of residence being constructed for prosperous gentlemen of the early Stuart period, remaining in his family for almost a century although the evidence is that the high costs involved also put them deeply in debt because the building was heavily mortgaged for several years afterwards and the liabilities were not finally settled until the family vacated the property over ninety years later.

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The most probable designer of the Red Hall was John Thorpe (circa 1565-1655), one of the foremost architects in Britain during the time of Elizabeth I. The building of the house is not documented but construction is assumed to have been between 1600 and 1610, with 1605 being the favoured date. No documentary evidence survives to identify the builder but the first tenant was undoubtedly Gilbert Fisher, a London grocer, who had amassed a sufficient fortune to finance such an ambitious project that would give him a standing in the community and there is evidence that he lived there in some style.

When he died, there were various owners until the property passed to the Digby family in the early 17th century, thus leading to an erroneous assumption that this was the home of Sir Everard Digby, one of the leading conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot to blow up King James I and the Houses of Parliament which was allegedly hatched at the Red Hall. But he came from a different branch of the family and never lived there and although the myth has long been disproved, references to it persist in guide books and magazine articles.

Lady Catherine Digby was the last member of the family to live there from the time she married James Digby in 1777 until her death in 1836 when the property was leased to various tenants and even used as a private boarding school for young ladies until sold in 1860 to the Bourne and Essendine Railway Company for use as the station booking office and stationmaster’s house.

There was an attempt to pull down the Red Hall in 1892 when the railway company needed more space to build freight sidings but the public outcry that ensued, accompanied by letters to the newspapers, articles in learned magazines and, more importantly, a public petition, forced the company to shelve its plans and the building was saved.

When the railway closed in 1959, the hall became redundant but was in a poor state of repair. It was offered for sale at £1 but there were no takers, even from the local authorities, and there was another attempt to pull it down after being condemned in several quarters as “a totally useless building”. But in 1962, Bourne United Charities stepped in and acquired the freehold and over the next ten years, implemented an extensive programme of restoration to ensure its survival. As a result, the Red Hall reopened in 1972 for public use and as offices for the BUC and remains so to this day.

Hire The Red Hall

Please have a look at the documents below which allow you to hire The Red Hall for weddings and various events, if you have any questions then please contact us.


Text and photographs © REX NEEDLE 2010